Don’t become a negative statistic.
HEALTH Up to 93% of cervical cancers are preventable. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), at age 21, women should begin getting two tests that can help prevent cervical cancer: (1) The Pap test (or Pap smear) that looks for precancers, cell changes on the cervix that may become cervical cancer. (2) The human papillomavirus (HPV) test looks for the virus that can cause these cell changes.
If you are a woman aged 21–65, it is important to continue getting a Pap test as directed by your doctor—even if you think you are too old to have a child or are not having sex anymore. Two HPV vaccines are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years of age who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger (preferably while still a virgin). They can protect females against the types of HPV that cause most cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers.
Cervical Cancer vs. Ovarian Cancer
Regularly scheduled gynecological visits are necessary to combat cancers that typically have vague or no symptoms but can spread to other parts of the body.
January is cervical cancer awareness month. It could take years or decades for HPV infection to lead to cervical cancer. In 2012, 7 out of 10 women who were not screened had a regular doctor and health insurance.
Steps to Help Prevent Cervical Cancer
- Don’t smoke.
- Use condoms during sex.*
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
* HPV infection can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not covered. While the effect of condoms in preventing HPV infection is unknown, condom use has been associated with a lower rate of cervical cancer.